Real Time Communications Featured Article

911 Texting is Crucial, yet Slow and Under-Deployed

September 12, 2014

In some parts of the country, you can send a text-message directly to 911 to receive emergency services. This seems like the kind of luxury designed for a millennial that would rather send a text message than talk on the phone, but the service could actually fill in several gaps in the current structure for contacting emergency services. Unfortunately, these services are only available in a small number of areas. While the service area for text-to-911 services is growing, it is only doing so at a crawl.

One of the many reasons why a text-to-911 feature is needed is due to the fact that there are countless emergency situations where a caller would be unable to talk, or where it might be outright dangerous to do so. For example, someone with a cell phone hiding in their home during an armed break-in would be unable to call emergency services without placing themselves in danger.

Another reason has to do with the fact that location services on cell phones perform poorly indoors. Emergency dispatchers can locate cell phones outdoors easily, while working indoors they can only narrow down the general neighborhood of the emergency at best. With a text message, an address can be texted directly to emergency services, where there will be no fear that the house number or street name was misheard.

Frankly, being able to connect to law enforcement or other safety officials easily via text messaging is long overdue in our tech-savvy world. Unfortunately, implementing emergency texting services is quite expensive, and emergency call centers often can't afford to pay the high premium. Of course, the cost for saving lives can never be underestimated. While the exact number of lives that could be saved with the service is nearly impossible to calculate, saving even one life is worth almost any price.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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